The Killing (1956)

You know Fay, the biggest mistake I made before was shooting for peanuts.

Five years have taught me one thing, if nothing else: Anytime you take a chance, you better be sure the rewards are worth the risk. Because they could put you away just as fast for a $10 heist as they can for a million dollar job.

Johnny Clay (played by Sterling Hayden)

I was familiar with the famed director Stanley Kubrick through his films such as The Shining (1980), Dr. Stangelove (1964), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). I never knew of his earlier work, such as his third film, The Killing, which he made in 1956.

This classic film is an impressive crime thriller - action-packed and concise. There is hardly a wasted scene across its under 90-minute running time.

You'll enjoy this movie if you enjoy classic bank heist storylines. This film provides much of the DNA in many bank heist movies today. Comparable movies are Michael Mann's Heat (1995) with Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Val Kilmer, and Ben Affleck's The Town (2010).

The planning of the heist. (Source is IMDB)

The opening scenes set the table, both story-wise and cinematically. This is a black and white film, and the way Kubrick plays with shadows throughout the film is something to pay attention to. The use of a narrator, something the studios wanted but Kubrick did not, works because the film is non-linear.

The film doesn't go from the start straight to the end. Since this is character-driven, the story goes back and forth, showing us the heist's planning, execution, and aftermath from different angles. Modern films such as Pulp Fiction (1994) are similar.

Examples of The Killing's Influence on Modern-Day Movies

Finally, this is the kind of movie you watch and realize where modern films got pieces of inspiration from. "[T]here are some visual aspects of The Killing that have been borrowed since its release." (IMDB)

The Killing (1956) - Use of a clown mask during the heist (IMDB)
The Dark Knight (2008) - Use of a clown mask during the opening bank robbery by The Joker (IMDB)
The Kiling (1956) - A gun wrapped in a long stem flower box (IMDB)
Terminator 2 (1991) - A gun wrapped in a long stem flower box (Reddit)